CubaBrief: New Decree by Castro regime further tightens censorship over Cubans

On July 4th, while millions of Americans were celebrating the birth of freedom in the United States, the Castro regime has issued a new decree tightening censorship on an already heavily censored people. The decree prohibits foreign web hosting while existing law prohibits critical content on domestic servers. Earlier this year on March 28, 2019 Google and the Cuban dictatorship signed an agreement to improve connectivity in Cuba. Will Google now be assisting in outlawing independent media and providing tech to track down Cubans that are foreign web hosting their websites in order to comply with totalitarian laws?

Global Voices advox*, July 5, 2019


Is Cuba trying to outlaw independent media? A new decree will prohibit foreign web hosting

It is also illegal to host “news media” sites locally.

By Ellery Roberts Biddle

Cuban officials issued a decree law on July 4 that prohibits Cuban citizens from running websites hosted outside of the country. The law deals a heavy blow to Cuba’s growing independent media sector, where nearly all media sites and blogs take advantage of foreign hosting services and blogging platforms.

The law offers no details on its implementation — it is unclear whether it will affect people who use foreign-based social media platforms to publish their views — but Cubans say it presents at least two significant problems for any citizen who wants to run their own website. First, under the new rule, they will incur new costs. Hosting services in Cuba, which are provided exclusively by ETECSA, the country’s sole, state-run telecommunications provider, are more expensive than many foreign hosting services, and more than running a basic blog on a site like WordPress, where the minimum cost is zero.

The second and more worrisome aspect of the rule is that Cuban state regulations impose tight restrictions on which types of websites can be hosted in Cuba at all. According to item 28 on a long FAQ posted by ETECSA, publications that constitute “news media” cannot seek hosting on Cuban servers. Furthermore, for bloggers and others who write independent commentary, the rules prohibit content that “contradict[s] any provision of law or governmental act” or that could disrupt “public order.”

In a country where the media landscape is made up of three major components — state-run media, foreign press and wire services, and small but increasingly powerful local independent media groups — the new rule could put this third sector into long-term legal limbo.

“The law leaves independent media without ‘legal’ hosting options,” said local journalist and Global Voices author Elaine Díaz. “By imposing fines, they are criminalizing a decision that should not have any legal consequence.” Díaz is the editor-in-chief of Periodismo de Barrio, an independent media group based in Havana.

On Twitter, Díaz also criticized the fact that the law was brought in by decree, rather than undergoing discussion and scrutiny by the state assembly.

#NoMoreDecrees Article 68 affects any citizen who has a blog on @wordpress or a page on @Medium. It is a violation and it was not even approved by the [National] Assembly. Information policies should be decided by consensus, or they will be unjust and arbitrary.

*A project of Global Voices, we are a global anti-censorship network of bloggers and activists dedicated to protecting freedom of expression online.

Is Cuba trying to outlaw independent media? A new decree will prohibit foreign web hosting